One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

ASK RONI Q&A

Ask Roni: From Couch to Kitchen

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Hi Roni,

I’ve been a lurker on your sites for several years.  I check it once a week or so, and enjoy the videos thoroughly.  I don’t really cook much, aside from trying your berry spinach shake.  Shockingly delicious!

Okay, here is the challenge.  Can you pick 3 recipes each from greenlitebites, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Ideally the recipes would be easy to make, and achievable for beginners.

Think of it like the couch-to-5k program, except for cooking. Taking people from where I am (making toast, or ordering pizza) to where you are, healthy cuisine whirlwind!  I think alot of us fail in the kitchen because we don’t know where to start.

Thanks, love your sites, posts, videos, and everything that you represent.

-Brad

Hi Brad!

I like this idea and LOVE how you made the connection between a program like Couch to 5K and learning to cook. I think so many people are fearful of the kitchen and preparing their own meals. Babysteps are definitely the way to go and just like running, you get better and better at it the more you practice! I can tell you know that my confidence and approaches have drastically changed, especially since starting GreenLiteBites. I eat foods now I didn’t even know existed 5 years ago and my approach to cooking is healthier and lighter than it’s ever been.

So let me see if I can answer your question with 3 meal ideas for each category that would be great for the beginner. I’m thinking of these as a level 1, level 2, level 3 but all of them are really simple for those that want to take the leap and start cooking more.

Breakfast

Level 1 – Greek Yogurt Parfait

There is no easier breakfast than yogurt. Sure you can buy some flavored options in little cups and be all set but a nice baby step on your way to cooking more would be to trust yourself to make a parfait!

This no cook option is a great way to get you started down a path of preparing more of your own meals. Click here for my version of a Greek Yogurt Parfait and to get a few ideas on making it your own.

Level 2 – The Most Amazing Bowl of Oatmeal EVER!

The only way I used to eat oatmeal was from those little packets. I thought buying Old Fashioned oats in bulk was out of the question. It must take forever to cook. Why else would they make instant packets, right?

Well I could not have been more wrong! Making a bowl of old fashioned oats takes minutes and you can flavor them anyway you like without all the preservatives and extra sweeteners.

This idea is not only quick, it’s delicious and will have you ditching the packets in no time. It’s a favorite of both the 18 month and 7 year old and uses just a ripe banana for sweetness. Click here to see the step by step instruction on making The Most Amazing Bowl of Oatmeal EVER!

Level 3 – Quick Whole Grain Banana Pancakes

You may think it’s a big jump to go from a no-cook breakfast and oatmeal to making homemade pancakes but I’m here to tell you this is the easiest, tastiest pancake recipe ever!

I’ve been making these for about 4 years and came up with the recipe out of pure desperation staring at some brown bananas. Belive me when I say panckaes do NOT have to come from a mix. I promise. Click here for the Quick Whole Grain Banana Pancake recipe and be amazed. :)

Breakfast Notes

You may have noticed I didn’t include any egg ideas in my initial plan here. That’s because eggs are a bit fickle and can be very intimidating for the absolute beginner. If you are interested in trying some fun egg ideas click here to go through all 101 of my breakfast ideas. I have quite a few mixed in as they are my go to breakfast.

Also note I use a lot of ripe bananas. If you aren’t used to keep them in stock, try picking up a few on your next grocery trip. I eat them straight up when slightly greenish. Then when some black/brown dots appear I use them in recipes like above. Once they get real brown, take the skin off them and freeze. You can defrost them in the microwave for recipes or use them to make banana soft-serve.

Lunch

Level 1 – The Simplest, Lightest, Easiest Tuna Salad Ever!

I’m starting with another no-cook option. I don’t think many people realize how easy it is to whip up a fresh lunch using a few simple ingredients. In this idea I simply mix stuff together and stuff it in pita. You can’t get much easier than that! Click here to see how I make the Simplest, Lightest, Easiest Tuna Salad Ever!

Level 2 – English Muffin Tomato Pizza

Pizza has always been my nemesis. I had to learn to cure the cravings instead of depending on take-out all the time.

This was one of the first recipe I shared on GreenLiteBites. It’s simple but shows you don’t need everything to be perfect to make something to eat. Don’t have pizza dough? Use an English muffin. No sauce? Use sliced tomato. All out of mozzarella? Try some shredded cheddar. It will work and still be super tasty!

This idea also reminds me to always try to add as many veggies as possible. Do you need to have broccoli and diced peppers on top? Of course not, but in my opinion, food is ultimately more satisfying when it’s pretty, full of color, and prepared at home even if it’s as simple as melting cheese on an English muffin. Click here to see English Muffin Tomato Pizza.

Level 3 – Avocado and Pinto Quesadilla

Quesdalilla’s are a super simple way to make a quick healthy meal. All you need is a skillet, a tortilla and you favorite healthy toppings.

I make them with leftovers or even lunch meat. For this particular idea I use some canned beans and veggies I happen to have on hand. Click here to see a step by step on how I made the Avocado and Pinto Quesadilla.

Lunch Notes

I know it’s hard to believe but just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean lunch has to come out of a box or served in a restaurant. That used to be my mindset. The ideas I shared can easily be whipped up quickly at home but if you are at work don’t forget about leftovers. Simply freeze your dinner leftovers and bring them to the office. They are usually defrosted enough by lunch to pop in the microwave!

Dinner

Level 1 – The Quickest 3 Bean Chili You’ll Ever Make

Having the items used in this recipe on hand will help you whip up other quick meals so I don’t want the ingredient list to scare you away. It may initially look like a lot but it’s all stuff you should be keeping in the pantry.

I’m choosing it as a level one because there’s nothing more to this idea than putting stuff in a pot. If you are new to cooking this is definitely an idea for you. Click here to see The Quickest 3 Bean Chili You’ll Ever Make.

Level 2 – 15 Minute Red Beans and Rice

This is another one pot meal but I’m listing it as a level 2 because it requires a bit more prep work. It uses more pantry items that are a good idea to keep in stock along side some fresh ingredients like peppers and zucchini.

This is one you can easily whip after a long day at work. I’d even argue to little bit of vegetable prep is a great way to unwind at the end of the day. Click here too see my 15 Minute Red Beans and Rice idea.

Level 3 – Quick Sweet & Tangy Salmon

I’m purposely picking salmon as our level 3 because I think people assume it’s difficult when the opposite is true. Fish takes just a few minutes to cook and absorbs flavors so easily.

This idea uses some more standard pantry items to simply spice up a salmon fillet. It will have you feeling like pro in now time, and honestly, there’s really nothing to. Click here to give Quick Sweet & Tangy Salmon a try!

Dinner Notes

I know I sound like a broken record in the stocked pantry department but that is really such a big part of cooking more at home. A stocked pantry saves you when you don’t have time to shop. A stocked pantry gives you options. A stocked pantry lets you get creative. I haven’t updated it in awhile but my initial pantry list is here on GreenLiteBites.

Brad, I hope that helps. I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for but these are a few very simple ideas you can make that will start giving you a little more confidence in the kitchen.

Now… get cooking! :)

-Roni



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Discussion

There are 17 comments so far.

    tj

    October 15, 2012

    Great question from Brad- Love the post. I’m not a kitchen newbie, just like EASY recipes and found it helpful too! :) Thanks Roni!

    Erin

    October 15, 2012

    WOW! Roni…you are GOOD! I LOVE this – great ideas and easy!!!! I am scared of my kitchen and what I am suppose to be able to create in it…you make it less horror-movie like :-} Can you be my neighbor???

    Tami

    October 16, 2012

    This is an awesome post even for the seasoned cook. I love getting fresh meal planning ideas.

    Karen Jaffe

    October 16, 2012

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I have a very (non-intimidating) way to make eggs, and it’s to bake an egg casserole. You take 8 eggs or the equivalent in egg substitute, mix in a splash of milk, and a cup or two of any veggies you like. Sometimes I put in turkey or veggie sausage or turkey bacon. Pour all into a sprayed 8×8 dish and bake for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees or until set. If you like, you can sprinkle a little low-fat cheese on top while it’s warm from the oven. I make this on Sunday, cut it into 4 servings, wrap up and refrigerate. During the week, I take out a serving and pop into the microwave to warm. Instant egg breakfast!

      whosallysparrow

      October 16, 2012

      Karen, that’s a great idea! I would never have thought of that. I don’t make eggs in the morning because I really, REALLY hate cleaning pans before work, but I am too high strung to leave them until I get home, but this I could handle. :)

      Reinaldo

      October 16, 2012

      Cleaning pans after cooking eggs is real work… unless you just let them soaking in plain water and wash them after you get home from work. You can literally clean them with your fingertips (no fingernails or soap). Try it!

      Sally Greenfield

      October 17, 2012

      Oh no, you guys are encouraging laziness. :) Actually, as my euphonium teacher used to say, “writing things into your music isn’t cheating as long as it sounds good at the end of the day”. I guess the same principle could apply here.

      RoniNoone

      October 17, 2012

      Get a good non-stick pan, I never have egg caked on mine and all it needs is a wipe from a paper towel to clean.

    Mindy

    October 16, 2012

    Wonderful post! I love it, couch to fresh food gourmet!

    Tammy

    October 16, 2012

    I wish you would do one of these each week!! I LOVE this! This is going to be my meal plan for the week. Please consider making this a permeant thing! =)

    LisaM

    October 16, 2012

    Can I add to the banana strategy? When they get too ripe, just pop the whole banana, skin and all into the freezer. When you want to use it, run it quickly under the faucet to get the frost off, then it’s super easy to peel with a paring knife. If I’m using for a smoothie, etc, I even leave some of the white fiberous underside of the peel for extra fiber. You can break or cut the frozen banana into chunks pretty easily – there’s enough sugar that it doesn’t freeze rock hard.

    Ella

    October 16, 2012

    Love this post! Thanks Roni for the great ideas : )

    nancy

    October 16, 2012

    I need help with recipes. There are really only 2 things I don’t eat–one is fish or sea food because I get sick and the other is mushrooms. I find so many healthy recipes have mushrooms and if it calls for a few I just leave them out but the problem is when they call for a cup or more–then what do I replace them with??

      Reinaldo

      October 17, 2012

      I’ll say whatever veggie that doesn’t soak up/give water. Mushrooms don’t give a lot of juice when cooked, nor they soak juices. So replace for cauliflower, broccoli, cooked spinach, etc. Almost any veggies! Stay away from veggies that gives a lot of water when cooked like tomato, zuchinni and the like because your dish would end up as soup ;) Not many veggies will soak up water (I can only think of eggplant) but most grains like rice or even potatoes will soak up juices and left your dish dry.

      RoniNoone

      October 22, 2012

      It really depends on the recipe. Do you have any specific ones you are curious about?

    MattnBecky Freckleton

    October 22, 2012

    Thank you, Brad, for asking the question I’ve always wanted to but didn’t know how to formulate. =)

    Teresa Davis

    October 25, 2012

    First time commenter, long time lurker. This is a great post, and I love thinking of cooking in terms of a couch to 5K. That makes so much sense to get into cooking in stages like this. I’m a pretty good cook by this point, but I would have loved this entry when I first got started in the kitchen.